Since my journey in Ireland began just over three months ago now, I’ve discovered and traveled the country’s lush, green landscape. I explored Ireland’s mountain county, Kerry, been to the heart of Ireland’s trad music scene in Galway, walked Dublin’s bustling city streets and made my daily trek through Cork’s humble, cobblestone city center. While Ireland has become a second home to me in these last few months and its beauty can forever continue to be uncovered, I have immediately grasped at the opportunity to travel throughout other parts of Europe.
Since flights in Europe are fairly cheap to travel through the continent, I found it important to visit as many cities as I can (without breaking the bank) while I am here. Coming to Ireland, I understood that I cannot travel as much as other students from the U.S. might be able to due to financial difficulties, but I also knew that it would be important to travel as much as possible.
April and May, my last two months here (totally ignoring this reality), are a lot less busy than the rest of the semester. Classes are over, and besides studying for finals, there is nothing else tying me to Cork. For these two months, I’ve decided to dip my toes into the greater European culture.
So here’s a breakdown (my travels from the last month in a short student blog):
LONDON: I began the month by traveling to the United Kingdom. Starting in London, I was a basic tourist. From walking through downtown London and being taken away by Piccadilly Circus, to crossing Tower Bridge, seeing London from new heights on the London Eye, and learning about the city’s dark and bloody history in the London Dungeon (I’m a sucker for a good spooky attraction). Of course I saw Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the Buckingham Palace. And there was no way I was leaving London without going to Dunkin Donuts, my first ‘Dunks’ coffee in 3 months. Hallelujah!
London was definitely an exciting city to see with a lot of history and phone booths, which I of course got a picture in! Although I will say the English accent has nothing on the Irish one.
SCOTLAND: From London, I traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland, and although I was still in the same country, Scotland felt like an entirely different world. Edinburgh took my breath away in an entirely different way; it is a city that will forever haunt and excite me in my memory. It’s medieval architecture and cobblestone streets preserved the city in a fossilized, Pompeii kind of way. The city takes a hold of you and leaves you with a sort of eerie feeling almost as if you are a citizen of Edinburgh hundreds of years ago. Its rich history is so preserved in every building and embedded in its people.
In Scotland, I took full advantage of the country’s supernatural folklore. Tripadvisor in Edinburgh boasts hundreds of different ghosts tours, some including underground vault exploration (gasp!). My roommate Julia and I ventured out in the twilight for some ghostly activities. Unfortunately we didn’t experience any paranormal activity, but it was still a spooky tour.
We spent our third day in Scotland at Loch Ness. My friends may have wanted to go for the beautiful scenery, but I was more interested in the legend of Nessie and I was not disappointed. There was a plethora of Nessie stories told by the ferry workers, and my €60 for the day was money well spent!
Last, but not least, PARIS!
Paris did not disappoint. I was in awe at the sheer beauty of the city. The streets were lined with cozy cafes and coffee shops, and bakeries were everywhere. This was my paradise!
Despite being in the city of lights, the city of love, or whatever else you want to call it, for half a day, I didn’t feel like I was truly in Paris until I saw the Eiffel Tower. I had seen it in so many movies and photographs. I have read and learned about it, but it is so surreal when you actually see it in front of you. The iron structure is Paris’ most iconic landmark and for a good reason. I was able to see the city from the top of the tower, which was a magical moment.
The next morning I was able to see Notre Dame, although only from a distance. From there I, of course, had to see the catacombs. The catacombs elicited a very different feeling of Paris than the Eiffel Tower the night before. The Catacombs are home to over six million Parisians from centuries before. The bones were designed in different artwork formations with skulls making shapes in the piles of bones. There were skulls in the formation of a heart, other areas where skulls outlined white crosses. The feeling was chilling as you walked through a maze of people dead hundreds of years ago.
This past month was truly unforgettable and I am extremely grateful for this opportunity. Back in Cork, I have to buckle down for finals week, but once my week of studying and exams are over, I will head up north to visit Donegal and perhaps Belfast in Northern Ireland. At the end of the month I am heading to Barcelona for one last trip in Europe, and after that I will have a few more days in the city I have learned to call home before my return back to the states.